When the American Red Cross took blood donations at the Taylorsville Redwood Campus recently, some students were left feeling like they had been turned away for strictly prejudicial reasons.
Many believe that the American Red Cross does not accept blood or tissue donation from gays. This is a slight misunderstanding. The Red Cross does not accept blood or tissue donations from men who have sex with men. It doesn’t matter if they are homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual. This is not by fault of the American Red Cross, however. The blood ban was issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Most donors do not realize that the American Red Cross is not to blame. It’s a common misconception that the Red Cross faces all the time. The ban was put into action in 1985 after the FDA conducted testing which revealed that men who have sex with other men are at a higher risk for HIV/AIDS and certain types of hepatitis. During the 1980’s, there was no easy way of testing for HIV/AIDS until blood was drawn and tested, but now there is cheap and extremely effective testing that can be done before blood is drawn.
HIV antibody tests are the most effective routine diagnostic tests given for HIV/AIDS among adults. The test, commonly referred to as a rapid oral HIV test, works by detecting special proteins that fight infection called antibodies, which are found in saliva. Not only are these rapid oral HIV tests extremely effective, they’re also cheap.
The ban was reevaluated in 2010 and a government health committee recommended not changing it. However, they called for research on new alternative policies and cited flaws in the current rules.
Gay rights advocates say the donation ban directly discriminates against gay and bisexual men. A heterosexual man or woman engaging in sexual activity with an HIV/AIDS positive partner may give blood after not engaging with that contact for a year while men who have sex with men face a lifetime ban.
The restrictions on blood donation vary from country to country. In Australia for example, tests showed that men who have sex with men are not at higher risk of being infected with HIV/AIDS in comparison to the heterosexual populace. Because of this, Australia accepts blood donations from all people, regardless of sexual orientation. Rapid oral HIV tests are conducted before blood is drawn and the donations are tested again for infected donors.
Currently, the city council of Washington, D.C. is reevaluating the lifetime ban again and calling for more research to be done. At the end of the day, however, the FDA is in charge of the overall outcome.
According to the American Red Cross website, less than 38 percent of the United States population is eligible to donate blood.